It turns out there was more to Sean Kilpatrick’s day off from practice Saturday than an attempt by University of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin to keep him fresh for the stretch run.

“He’s been sick since we got back (from Louisville),” Justin Jackson said.

Whatever was ailing Kilpatrick – neither he nor Cronin would be specific - didn’t keep him from staging another rescue mission for UC. The senior guard scored the Bearcats’ last eight points Sunday, enabling them to extend their winning streak to 14 with a grinding 50-45 victory over South Florida before 10,367 fans at Fifth Third Arena.

Kilpatrick, who played 37 minutes, struggled with his shot all day, making just 5 for 16 from the field and 2 for 8 from 3-point range. But with the game on the line, he rose to the occasion again.

“It’s rough,” Kilpatrick said. “Playing under the weather is terrible. It goes really to my teammates. Them guys, when it’s late like that, they find some way to just find me. I just go to the foul line and do my job.”

No. 13 UC (21-2, 10-0 in the American Athletic Conference) has won 17 straight games at Fifth Third Arena and will likely be voted into the Top 10 when the new AP rankings come out Monday. USF (11-11, 2-7) has lost five of its last six games.

Kilpatrick led UC with 18 hard-earned points to vault past Danny Fortson and Deonta Vaughn into third place on the Bearcats’ career scoring list with 1,891 points. He needs 95 points to pass Steve Logan for No. 2 behind Oscar Robertson.

“He’s maybe the most underrated great player that’s ever played here,” Cronin said of Kilpatrick. “I was really happy for him Thursday night (when he scored 28 points vs. Louisville). I think it woke people up nationally as to who he is.”

Cronin was concerned about the USF game because of the Bulls’ size and athleticism along the front line. He knew that if the Bearcats were unable to force USF into a spate of turnovers and make open shots when they were presented, they would be in trouble.

That’s exactly what happened.